The newly appointed group general manager of five-star beach resort The Anam talks about life in a new country after spending more than two decades in Malaysia, what Vietnam has to offer to the contemporary traveller and his idea of a perfect weekend.
Options: Congratulations on being appointed group general manager of The Anam. Tell us a little about your property and its location in Vietnam.
Laurent Myter: The Anam is one of Vietnam’s top coastal resorts and the first truly luxurious property in Cam Ranh, an up-and-coming pristine coastal destination that is removed from the hustle and bustle of nearby Nha Trang. The resort is easily accessed from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, thanks to numerous daily flights, including a direct one on AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur. It’ll take you just 15 minutes by car to reach us from Cam Ranh International Airport. Once here, you will discover how The Anam’s design is inspired by Vietnam’s bygone Indochine era and the resort’s romantic appeal draws from this particular epoch, which evokes a nostalgic tone with imperial-style roofs, lanterns, big-bellied water vases, decorative pools, customised mosaic floors and stone pathways. We are guided by an ‘Indochine charm, modern luxury’ approach to accommodation, blending colonial-era elements and warm-hearted Vietnamese service with all modern comforts and conveniences.
So, what would you recommend the first-time visitor to The Anam do?
Start the day by watching the sunrise from the beach. The locals are up and about from as early as 4.45am, exercising, swimming and running on the beach as part of their daily pre-work routine. You can then enjoy an open-air yoga session with Umesh, our yoga guru, at 6am. Visit our farm to collect chicken and duck eggs, pick fresh vegetables from our garden and bring them to our chef, who will use the ingredients to prepare your breakfast. After, relax by the pool with a good book or play a round of golf at the Greg Norman-designed KN Golf Club course just 10 minutes away.
Enjoy a light nibble of tuna sashimi at our Indochine Restaurant before a spa session. To feel truly spoilt, do try the signature bamboo therapy, where bamboo canes are gently rolled over the body, kneading and gliding in a rhythmic motion and melting away all muscular tension. Bamboo provides a harmonising and balancing effect, leaving you in an extreme state of relaxation. Dinner should be at our Lang Viet restaurant for authentic and delicious Vietnamese cuisine. Lang Viet also offers bi-weekly Mama’s Cooking evenings, where the mothers of five of our staff whip up a family-style feast right before your eyes. End the day with a Saigon Negroni (Vietnamese coffee-infused Song Cai dry gin, Campari, red vermouth and a spoonful of Limoncello) at the Saigon Bar, alongside music from our resident pianist and singer.
You’ve spent the last 20-plus years of your career in Malaysia. What prompted the move?
I have been extremely blessed to have worked for YTL Hotels for a total of 26 years, of which 23 were based in Malaysia. It was professionally challenging, with new projects coming up, contributing to and witnessing first-hand the astronomical growth the company has achieved. But I just needed something new: a new challenge, new country, new company and to be in unchartered, unfamiliar territory. I needed to get out of my comfort zone. It was not easy, especially when YTL has looked after my family and me for so long and so well. But it was the right time to make a fresh start. Besides, I have been a nomad all my life. I was born in France, spent seven years of my childhood in Italy, then moved to Switzerland for 18 years, followed by Saudi Arabia, Thailand and then Malaysia.
Hoteliers have great work stories to tell. What are some of yours?
Hosting Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Zermatt for their honeymoon back in 1992, participating in outside catering jobs at the King’s Palace in Jeddah and being part of the Global Leadership Forum in Pangkor Laut, where Luciano Pavarotti performed in front of 300 select guests at Emerald Bay in 2002. The experiences have been numerous and mind-blowing, but one key highlight is seeing former young department heads, who used to work for me, now thriving as general managers in international companies. That is the greatest job satisfaction for me. You tend to believe you have contributed a little towards their career.
What was your childhood ambition, though?
You mean, besides becoming a rock star? Seriously, though, I always knew I wanted to work in the hospitality and tourism industry. I see it as a great way to travel the world and experience different countries and cultures. Asia was always on my radar somehow and, looking back, things have worked out pretty much the way I wanted it.
What advice would you give to people who want to succeed in hospitality?
Be open to the world and passionate about serving people.
What are you reading right now?
Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Right before Covid hit, I got into running again and now start my day at 5am, running about 50km a week. The book was recommended to me by Luke Hurford, a dear ex-colleague and truly serious, high-level runner himself.
Your love of music is well-known. What would be the top five songs on your playlist?
The Beatles would fill up all five spots already but I am also always happy to hear Annie’s Song by John Denver, Do I Wanna Know by Arctic Monkeys, Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones and Hold the Line by Toto, one of my all-time favourite bands. I have seen them about seven times live!
You play music yourself, if we are not mistaken?
I have played bass since I was 13 and was once part of a band with my brother Christophe (guitar and vocals) and Roger, a firm friend since 1974. We still play together, not often, but we do. We feel like teens again when that happens. In Phuket in 1996, though, I had the chance to play onstage alongside Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. I also had the opportunity to jam with Jon Farriss, INXS’ drummer. Music has never paid the bills but is just a fabulous hobby.
What other epic concerts have you attended, then?
Whitesnake, with Ozzy Osbourne opening, in Lausanne (1982); Toto in Paris (1990); The Rolling Stones in Madrid (2015); several Guns n’ Roses concerts in New York’s Madison Square Garden; any of the three Paul McCartney concerts I’ve attended; and Bryan Adams. I’ve seen Bryan Adams several times from 1987 — in Lausanne, Paris and Zurich — but his 2017 concert in Kuala Lumpur was memorable because I got to meet him backstage after.
Where are you looking to travel next?
This year has just been spent travelling nearby: to Hanoi, Saigon, Danang and one trip to Phuket. My bucket list for 2023 has Bhutan on it — that and a long weekend to Luang Prabang.
Describe your idea of a perfect weekend.
The answer is a bit boring. Usually, my wife and I tend to stay home and just spend time together. My wife is an excellent cook, so the perfect weekend revolves around eating homecooked food at home. We tend to see a lot of people during the week, so the weekends are best enjoyed cocooned and avoiding crowded places. This has long been our routine way before Covid started.
This article first appeared on July 18, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.